Home Christian News ERLC Event: Serving Refugees Part of Great Commission

ERLC Event: Serving Refugees Part of Great Commission

ERLC refugees
ERLC acting president Brent Leatherwood (top left) hosted panelists Bryant Wright (clockwise from top right), Matthew Soerens and Bri Stensrude to discuss how Christians can best s serve refugees in their communities.

NASHVILLE (BP) – Ministering to the world’s refugees can be an outgrowth of a Great Commission culture in a church, the audience for a Southern Baptist-sponsored webinar was told Tuesday (April 19).

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) hosted an online event titled “How Christians Can Serve Refugees” at a time when millions of people have fled Ukraine, Afghanistan and other countries as a result of wars and political instability. While many Ukrainians and Afghans have left their homes in recent months for nearby countries, some are seeking resettlement in the United States, providing American Christians opportunities to serve them and share the Gospel of Jesus.

“[I]f there’s one thing that has unified evangelical Christians through the years and Southern Baptists through the years, it is the Great Commission,” Send Relief President Bryant Wright told the webinar audience. “Evangelical culture is passionate about the Great Commission, and [ministry to refugees] is an area to build on that passion of the Great Commission, of sharing the Good News with folks.

“[L]et’s begin with Christ’s mission. Let’s begin with the Great Commission,” Wright said when asked to give advice to pastors. “And when that culture begins to develop in the life of the church, then ministry to refugees is just one part of carrying out Christ’s Great Commission.

“[W]hen a church becomes passionate about the Great Commission, and a church begins to go, a church begins to send people on mission to the different people groups around the earth, then that church begins to have a different heart about the world, a different heart about people who are different from us.”

The Great Commission refers to Jesus’ message to His followers at the close of the New Testament book of Matthew to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”

Care for refugees is one of the focus areas of Send Relief, the Southern Baptist Convention’s compassion ministry carried out through the cooperative efforts of the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board. Send Relief encourages churches to proclaim the Gospel while meeting practical needs. Its current projects in 2022 are serving nearly 487,000 displaced people in Eastern Europe. Last year, Send Relief served 171,287 people in its ministry to care for refugees and mobilized 2,445 people to serve.

More than 26 million people around the world are refugees, and a total of 84 million people are forcibly displaced, nearly 50 million within their countries, according to the latest statistics from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The UNHCR reported April 20 that 5 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded in February. More than 10½ million people – nearly a quarter of Ukraine’s population – have been displaced either within the country or abroad as refugees, according to the U.N. agency.

People “are forced to make the decision to migrate for survival. That is the overarching reason for migration,” said Bri Stensrud, director of Women of Welcome, a nonpartisan group that advocates for refugees and immigrants.

The specific reasons for migration include war, civil unrest, persecution, political power struggles and decisions by world leaders, such as the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last year and the Russian invasion of Ukraine this year, Stensrud said.